Posted on Dec 01, 2023, 2 p.m.
Sugar is getting a bad rap as being unhealthy, and while it can be, the sugar topic has been exaggerated to the point of scaring away people from perfectly nutritious foods containing natural sugar like fruit. Sugar itself is not the enemy, all the added sugars, additives, and sweeteners however are what you should be concerned with.
According to The American Heart Association (AHA), the average American adult will eat around 17 teaspoons of added sugars daily, this amount is over 2-3 times the recommended amount. All this adds up to 60 pounds of added sugars annually. Children between the ages of 2 and 19 who consume 16 teaspoons per day, adds up to 53 pounds annually, but realistically that number is probably higher with all the sweet treats and snacks.
Most people aren’t completely sure where all the sugar is coming from, studies show that 80% of shoppers find conflicting nutritional data, and 59% doubt the choice that they make for their families. 77% of Americans are trying to cut back on the amount of sugar in their diets, and 7 in 10 are willing to give up a favorite sugary product in favor of a healthier alternative.
The AHA states that beverages are the leading source of added sugars, representing 47% of all added sugars followed by snacks and sweets representing 31% of as the next biggest contributor of added sugars. Soft drinks account for 25%, fruit drinks account for 11%, coffee/tea accounts for 7%, and sports/energy drinks account for 3%.
Sweeteners, refined and added sugars are commonly used in ultra-processed foods, beverages, and condiments. These types of sugar are much more likely to negatively impact your health, especially when in excess. Added sugars have been linked to obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure among other health conditions.
The same thing can not be said about the natural sugar in fruit, and for most people fruit can be part of a healthy diet. The natural sugar content here should not make people avoid fruit when most people are not consuming the daily recommended values for fruits and vegetables in their diets in the first place.
The sugar in fruit could increase blood sugar levels, but most bodies know how to process sugar by secreting insulin to bring the level back to normal. However, overeating any carb, which includes fruit, can impair the body’s ability to carry out that task effectively. The difference between natural sugar and added/refined/ultra-processed sources is that fruit contains fiber and other nutrients that help to slow down the absorption of sugar and stabilize blood sugar levels, while foods with added sugars typically have little to no fiber.
Fruit contains a variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that help to support health. You can double down on further stabilizing blood sugar responses by eating fruit with yogurt or eggs which will provide additional protein, fat, and additional fiber. Those with diabetes need to be mindful of sugar intake, regardless of the source because their body has an impaired ability to process sugar. The pairing previously mentioned is often suggested for those with diabetes. Most people without diabetes or insulin resistance can enjoy fruit without worrying about taking in too much sugar for the body to process.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that 1 in 3 (96 million) Americans have prediabetes, over 80% (1 in 4) of them are not even aware, and over 37 million have diabetes. Those with diabetes are at an increased risk for a range of serious health risks and complications as well as spending more on healthcare and missed work/school days.
The statistics aren’t very good, meaning that it is important not to ignore the importance of watching how much sugar you are consuming regardless of the source. The numbers indicate that blood sugar regulation is alarmingly prevalent across the nation, and the natural sugar in fruit is generally not the cause but it may exacerbate existing problems, in some people. (It is worth mentioning that we’ve only touched on diabetes in this article, the numbers for obesity are even more staggering.)
Natural fruit sugar is not the same as and should not be directly compared to added/refined sugars used in highly/ultra-processed beverages, snacks, and desserts. Fruit contains fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial compounds like antioxidants that are typically not found in ultra-processed foods that are abundantly high in added sugars. Americans would benefit from eating less added sugars, but they don’t consume as much fruit as they should. Those with certain health conditions need to be mindful of all sugar intake, however, even these individuals should be able to eat fruit after consulting with their physician if they are mindful about it.
Keep an eye out for: agave syrup, brown sugar, cane juice, cane syrup, confectioners’ sugar, corn sweetener and corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, fruit juice concentrates, glucose, granulated white sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, inverted sugar, lactose, maltose, malt syrup, molasses, raw sugar, sucrose, and syrup as these are all types of sugar. One gram of sugar equals 4 calories, and 4 grams equals 1 teaspoon of sugar.
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement.
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